Skip to main content

tv   This Week in Northern California  PBS  March 30, 2013 1:30am-2:00am PDT

1:30 am
model of this thing. the real ones are 15 times the size meaning the metal on these shafts about this much longer. >> 15 times the size of what you are holding up. >> they are huge. some are 30 feet long. the shortest is nine feet long and weigh thousands of pounds. what happened is as they were literally cranking them down to put them into place, they would torque them down and torque them down. they finally got set and some would break. others would break a short time later. these are huge pieces of metal. this is completely beyond the realm of understanding. the failures of the first 100 bolts failed. that is a 30% failure rate which is unheard of for this kind of construction and this kind of thing. these are part of the system that literally holds the road deck to the piling underneath the road deck to keep the whole
1:31 am
thing together should it start shaking in an earthquake. what happens is, it rocks like this. if this connector is not right, the roadway can slip off the piling. it is a huge problem. there are claims that these were inspected and yes, they were indeed treated in all ways they should be done. double inspections. all that stuff has been stated. >> do you buy it? >> if it's all true, it can't be. that's the reality of the situation. now, the investigation goes back to the original company that manufactured them. a company called dyson in paynesville, ohio. we will have to find out where the steel came from and find out if they did anything there that caused a problem. then it goes to a much more serious matter. that is the thing called quality
1:32 am
assurance. once you make this thing, you have to have quality control in making it and then quality assurance somewhe it gets where needs to be. you cannot extract most of them. meaning they are broken in place. you can chop them out in section by section, and can't replace them. you have to build a collaring system that literally hold the road deck down to the piling. if they cannot do that, there is question the bridge will open on time. caltrans says it will open on time. this is a big job. we will see. >> it is set to open labor day weekend. there are questions about that. i'm curious how many of these bolts total are there on the bridge and have they determined exactly what caused the ones that did break to break? >> well, they don't know what caused them to break.
1:33 am
they believe what it was was contamination of hydrogen in the metal. what it means is something got into the metal that made it more brittle and we applied more force to it and it broke. this is a critical area. this is where the big tower section called the self-anchored suspension hook into the cause way which touches down in oakland. this is where you will have a major amount of shaking in an earthquake. this is built between the hayward fault and san andreas fault. within 72 hours of a major earthquake, it is supposed to be back in service of a major earthquake. right now, this bridge is not capable of doing that because this key and critical connector, which is a sheer key, is not serviceable. >> did they have any sense of
1:34 am
cost for is it way too early to determine? >> it is way too early to determine and they will have to be designed to have done in a couple of weeks, but it has to go to peer review. caltrans will not make this decision alone. it will go to peer review and decide how it is fabricated. now in theory, there is enough time to get it done before the opening, but everybody agrees the bridge will not open until they are absolutely sure this fix is at least as good, if not better than the original system which raises a question why wasn't this system put in in the first place. >> let me ask you quickly about the golden gate bridge since we're on the topic of transportation. golden gate bridge switched to electronic tolling. the first bridge in california to do so. how did it go? >> after 76 years, there were no toll takers there. it went well. most of the people that use the
1:35 am
golden gate bridge on wednesday morning, 86% have fast-track. the real issue is when tourist season begins and they have cash or they will want to stop and there may be accidents. the biggest problem turned out to be people zooming through. it used to be a five-mile per hour to go through the toll booth even with fast-track. some rocket jockeys were going through there. >> this will be toll collection by mail? >> what happens is they take a picture of your license plate. if you haven't signed up for license plate reading, which you can do in advance, they will send you a bill. you have to pay within 21 days or the fines mount up. they will be able to collect it. >> all right. two bridges. very different situations.
1:36 am
>> very different. >> tom, thank you. stockton is the nation's largest city ever to file for bankruptcy and is now on trial for doing so. wall street creditors say they should not be left off the hook for the debts. especially the california retirement system or calpers. scott, what is at the core of the argument? >> regarding calpers, that is the retirement for city employees. the city is worried. there has been a big problem with crime in stockton. it has been a dangerous city for a number of years. a shortage of police officers with cutbacks and with recent financial crisis. the wall street creditors want the city to tighten its belt every place possible. they are looking to calpers for
1:37 am
stockton to do that. the city comes back and says, if we cut back on the pensions for our employees anymore, even more of the police officers and employees throughout the city are going to bail essentially. they really make it out to be a life-or-death situation with being able to retain employees and police officers. >> how much money is on the line? how much does stockton owe? >> the city, back when times were good, issued a lot of bonds. millions of dollars worth. so when the economy crashed, the tax revenues failed and stockton is not able to make these bond payments right now. what is happening is that there are these companies, these firms that insure stockton's bonds in which case the companies default.
1:38 am
the insurance companies are now paying the bondholders. they are on the hook for millions. a corporation is on the hook for $65 million. we're talking big money. >> these are bonds for sports arenas? >> big bonds that are at issue here are sports arenas, which the city built. $125 million pension bond the city issued. other bonds. the city issued $40 million in bonds for a new city hall. the city hall we have now is crumbling literally. the city stopped paying on those bonds specifically. those are the targets. >> for getting about wall str t street, what is the mood of the public employees and the mood of the citizens? i have to think downdowne
1:39 am
downer across the board. >> it is a downer. the city filed nine months ago. it has been nine months now. initially when this happened, i spent a lot of time reporting and asking people that question. they are worried. how will it affect me? it turns out life goes on. the people who are making the noise are the wall street folks. more or less, the parks are being mowed. the trash is being collected. water comes on. life goes on in stockton. i think people are starting to realize it will not go anywhere. >> the new mayor wants to do a tax measure right now, right? to hire new police? >> not very well. it is turning out to be a big fight anytime you want to raise taxes. he wants to raise a half cent sales tax which he thinks will raise annually $18 million and put 100 more cops on the street to fight the crime problem. city hall, the established folks in city hall, the new mayor and
1:40 am
city manager who is shepherding stockton through the crisis. now it is sending mixed messages. can we wait and do that later? the mayor was elected on the mandate to bring public safety. that is what he will do. it is making our council meetings on tuesday night interesting. >> the creditors are not happy about that. they say you want to raise sales tax for police officers, you should raise taxes to help us. they accuse stockton of not necessi negotiating in good faith. >> i have been in court where the bankruptcy is playing out in earnest. the city is saying we went into bankruptcy. the judge is deciding. he is supposed to issue a ruling on monday if the city is eligible. the test is did you negotiate in
1:41 am
good faith with your creditors. did you wake up one morning and say we're broke and file or did you do this which is equitable and fair? that is the first test the judge is deciding. >> i know where you will be monday. >> it will be interesting. the drakes bay oyster company was ordered to shutdown at the point reyes seashore last year by the secretary of interior ken salazar, but the company's owner is fighting back. there are revelations about unlikely and controversial supporters of the oyster farm. bob, tell us why it was ordinarierordinarered to shutdown. >> it was ordered to shutdown because the lease expired. they asked for a lease extension and secretary salazar reviewed the issues and decided to deny
1:42 am
that request last december because it would set a precedent. the federal government has never before renewed a lease for a private company on public land. after that happened, some republican members of congress got very interested as well as a non-profit in washington, d.c. with ties to the koch brothers. >> why do they care? >> it is the interest the private property on public land. this will set a precedent. it could open the door for other private companies who are less environmentally sustainable like an oyster farm to do the same in the united states. >> the republican david vitter from louisiana has a bill out and would allow drakes bay to stay open for ten more years. what do you make of all of that? >> well, it's, again, the idea
1:43 am
that if we can set a precedent, the republicans, can set a precedent of allowing a private property owner to have extra rights that they don't currently have or recognized by the federal government or the courts, if they can set a precedent through court or congress, it could help private businesses throughout the united states who are trying to get more rights on public land. >> these creatures are floater feeders. they actually clean the water. >> yes. >> how can that be bad for the environment? >> they are not bad for the environment necessarily. the oyster farm is debatable. the end of the day, the question was, are we going to set this precedent and allow this lease to continue on just because this oyster farm is not necessarily bad for the environment. >> what is interesting, kevin, the owner of the oyster farm is backed by the non-profit group cause of action. that is giving him free legal
1:44 am
representation. what do you know about cause of action? >> well, the executive director dan epstein is the former employee of the charles koch foundation. he was the head of the committee that launched a number of investigations on the obama administration. most notably the fast and furious. this whole issue is a darling on the right. it has been on fox news quite a bit and it is making waves. >> what do people who live in the neighborhood by drakes bay and that part of the coast -- it is beautiful -- what do people who live in the region think about the oyster farm? >> the community is deeply divided and has been for a long time. environmentalists are one side. they want the park to be the first marine wilderness on the west coast. locals, involved in sustainable
1:45 am
agriculture, want the farm to stay. however, since the koch brothers group has gotten involved, it is my understanding that the oyster farm is losing support. >> who are the koch brothers? they have ties to oil and natural gas production. >> they are billionaires from natural gas and oil. they funded a lot of candidates and main funders of the tea party. >> has this lost support in marin? it is making for strange bed fellows. you have oil and gas interests on one side and you have someone like democratic senator dianne feinstein who supports it and alice waters. >> feinstein was a big supporter of the oyster farm prior to secretary salazar's ruling last november. since the koch brothers group has become involved, she has been very quiet on the issue. it is unclear where she stands
1:46 am
at this point. recently, a number of sustainable agriculture groups, including alice waters, advocated in court on behalf of the oyster farm. their argument is similar to what tom is pointing out. this is a environmentally friendly business. we want to support environmentally friendly businesses that are working in harmony with nature. that overlooks the idea of the precedent. >> i know there is a federal court hearing on may 14th. thank you. thanks to our guests for joining us tonight. coming up, berkeley scientist arlene blum will talk about a class of chemicals that are supposed to keep us safe. they are in just about all our homes. couches and chairs with polyurethane foam and the foam has large quantities of flame
1:47 am
retardants. they have been linked to health problems like cancer and infertilit infertility. state all lawmakers are reconsidering. the mission was started by pioneer arlene blum. she succeeded in getting it removed in 1977. now she is back on the front lines battling the chemicals this time in our furniture. arlene blum, welcome to the program. >> thank you. >> the epa announced it will assess the safety of nancy reagans flame retardants. i wonder if the chemical flame retardants are unsafe. why are they being put into our furniture now? >> in the '70s, actually my research showed that the flame retardant in children's pajamas ended up inside the children and change dna was a likely
1:48 am
cancer-causing agent. it was banned from children's pajamas. we didn't know it was used in other products. in the last ten years, it has been the number one chemical in furniture foam in california today. >> by law, they are supposed to have these flame retardants, right? it is supposed to withstand exposure to candles without igniting. >> that's right. california is the only place in the world that has a standard saying the foam inside furniture will resist a candle flame. that leads to lots of chemicals in the furniture. it does not lead to an increase in fire safety. >> it doesn't? >> no. surprising. fabric is where fires start. there is nothing about the fabric. it says the foam inside will resist a small flame. if you drop a candle on the couch, the fabric burns. with flame retardants, it gives
1:49 am
off a lot of toxic gasses. the flame retardants -- there is no benefit. >> the furniture industry defends the flame retardants. they say there has been a huge drop in deaths. 1,400 deaths in 1980. that is down to 600 in 2004. you are shaking your head. is that not correct? >> the people who say that are the manufacturers of the chemicals. we have less fire deaths because less people are smoking. they have the same drop in fire deaths as we in california whose furniture is 5%. the furniture manufacturers don't want it. the three producers of the chemicals are the only ones that want the chemicals in our furniture. >> help me understand this. the chemicals, how are they harming us and what kinds of health problems are associated with them?
1:50 am
>> they are continually coming out of our furniture. >> how does that happen? >> they go from an area of high density in the furniture to an area of low density outside. if you have something hot, it cools. the chemicals are always coming out. they drop into dust. toddlers crawl in the dust. they put their hands in their mouths and we have it in our bodies. it is very sad. >> how much of the chemicals are in the furniture? do they pump a lot in? >> 5% of the weight of the foam. if you have 40 pounds of foam in your couch, you have two pounds of a chemical like ddt. i didn't answer your earlier question. there are 3,000 or 4,000 papers showing levels of the chemical in humans and wildlife and animal health problems. now we have 20 papers showing
1:51 am
human health problems. when pregnant women have higher levels, their children end up with lower iqs or neurological impairment. it is bad for fertility and some are cancer causing. >> you have been the biggest crusader. how did you first get involved in this in the first place in the 1970s? i hear it started with your cat. >> i don't say crusader. i say scientist. my job is to inform people. in the '70s, we learned that children had these chemicals in their bodies. they were banned. they were removed from our kids' pajamas. i did not think about it. i went off and climbed mountains. in 2006, i discovered the same chemical we got out of the pajamas in the '70s, is back in
1:52 am
the furniture. my cat has a disease and we suspected it is due to the chemical. there is one study saying when there are higher levels in dust in household, you have higher thyroid disease in cats. they have a higher level of their body because of the dust and they lick their fur. they have 10 to 100 times the level of humans. >> just quickly, are flame retardants in other products as well? >> in building insulation and foam and carpet. we did a study. we found them in sleep mats that toddlers sleep on. >> it's very common. >> there are some places where flame retardants could be useful perhaps in an airplane. in things like home furniture and juvenile products and high chairs and strollers and car seats. there is no benefit. you know, the great news it will all change thanks to governor brown.
1:53 am
>> he is waiting on the debate. he is proposing a smolder test where you can resist fire by cigarettes. >> exactly. the main cause of fire deaths is smoldering cigarettes that drop on chairs and couches. by having the right kind of fabric, you can stop those fire deaths. get rid of flame retardants. it is a huge win-win for our health. >> we will see how it turns out. arlene blum, thank you. arlene's work has been honored by for her work in her career. that does it for us. visit for the show archives. to subscribe to the news letter and podcast and share your ideas. thanks for watching. good night.
1:54 am
1:55 am
1:56 am
1:57 am
>> a high stakes debate at the supreme court over same-sex marriage and the president tells lawmakers, don't get squibbery about gun control. i'm doyle mcmanus in for gwen ifill. tonight on washington week. at issue, the definition of marriage. >> if you telled tell a child
1:58 am
that somebody has to be their friend, i suppose you can force the child to say, this is my friend, but it changes the definition of what it means to be a friend. and that's it seems to me what the supporters of proposition eight are saying here. doyle: the supreme court hears arguments in two separate cases challenging who can marry and what it means to be married. >> you're saying, well, if we allow same-sex couples to marry, it doesn't serve the state's interest. but do you go further and say that it harms any state interest? >> states have two kinds of marriages. the full marriage and then the sort of skin milk marriage. doyle: is it the right time for a broad ruling on gay marriage? >> you want us to step in and rend a decision based on -- render a decision based on the assessments of the effects of this institution which is newer than cell phones and the internit net? doyle: and why so many politicians are evolving on
1:59 am
marriage equality. plus, three months after the massacre in newton, president obama presses congress to take action on tougher gun laws. >> the entire country was shocked. the entire country pledge we had would do something about it and this time it would be different. shame on us if we've for then. doyle: but is public support for gun control fading? covering this week, joan biskupic, pete williams, dan balz and john harwood. >> award-winning reporting and analysis. covering history as it happens. live from our nation's capital, this is "washington week." with gwen ifill. corporate funding for "washington week" is provided by -- >> we went out and asked people a simple question. how old is the oldest person you've known? we gave people a sticker and had them